Winter can be wonderful; inside is nice and cozy and outdoors, fresh layers of snow create beautiful landscapes. However, it can also make everyday things more difficult. From getting your mail to going to the grocery store and even turning on the fireplace, problems can arise.
In order to make the winter safe, healthy and stress-free for seniors, we’ve compiled these tips.
- Manage the Ice. It’s on your front porch, driveways, sidewalks and roads. Always check weather conditions before leaving home and be prepared for slippery conditions. For example, if you live in a house, keep salt right by the front door so you can apply it to the porch or steps before stepping out. When you do head out, make sure it is with appropriate footwear. Look for winter boots that offer good traction and non-slip soles. Walk carefully and if you need to, bring a walker or cane to help keep you balanced. Finally, wait for roads to be cleared before heading out.
- Wear Protective Layers. Older adults are more prone to hypothermia and are susceptible to colder temperatures. It is important that they bundle up before heading outside, even for short periods of time. In order to avoid hypothermia or frostbite, seniors should dress in layers, wear quality winter coats, a hat, gloves, and as noted above, proper boots. When temperatures dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the lungs can be damaged during inhalation. Protect the lungs by breathing through a scarf.
- Prepare for Power Outages. Heavy snowfalls, extreme cold and freezing rain can lead to power outages. Be prepared by keeping flashlights, extra batteries, and blankets on hand. It is also a good idea to have non-perishable food items stocked in the pantry. Make sure they can be prepared and consumed without using any electricity. If inside temperatures get too chilly, wear outdoor clothing and move around as much as you can.
- Home Heating. Fireplaces, gas and wood stoves, and other gas appliances offer great comfort. However, if they are not properly vented, cleaned and used, they can emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. You cannot see or smell this gas, so it is imperative that there are working CO detectors in the home. If you use space heaters, ensure that household items are kept at a distance and that the heaters do not become over-heated to reduce the risk of fire.
- Tune Up the Car. With slippery roads and inclement weather, it is important to make sure the car is properly tuned up. Have the tires and windshield wipers checked and make sure the antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid is topped up. Keep extra blankets in the car along with a first aid kit, booster cables, windshield scraper, shovel, and bag of sand in case the wheels get stuck. Finally, always bring a cell phone with you.
- Stay Connected. Another key winter safety measure is to check in on friends and family. Inclement weather can lead to isolation and feelings of loneliness or depression. A simple phone call or visit can significantly increase their spirits and health.
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By Christine Tompa